Orange, Pelephone to become local iPhone providers

Cellcom may be considering a similar move; until now, the only way to use an iPhone on an Israeli cellular network was to 'unlock' it.

iPhone 88 248 (photo credit: )
iPhone 88 248
(photo credit: )
Two of Israel's main cellular companies will begin selling the iPhone 3GS in the next few months. Partner Communications Company Ltd., the Israeli provider of cellular operations for Orange, and Israeli provider Pelephone both recently reached agreements with Apple Sales International to purchase and sell iPhones in Israel. Orange's agreement stipulates that the arrangement will last at least three years. Cellcom, another main Israeli provider, is discussing a similar agreement with Apple and expects to begin providing iPhones around the same time as Orange and Pelephone, a Cellcom representative said Wednesday. Until now, the only way to use an iPhone on an Israeli cellular network was to unlock it, which rendered the warranty invalid. The iPhone only functioned on a limited number of wireless networks, none of them in Israel. However, iPhones have been popular in Israel almost since they hit the international market. Asi Cohen, owner of electronics store Multizone in Jerusalem, said he has received requests to unlock customers' iPhones almost every day since they came out. The process costs 150 shekels for a basic unlocking, which requires a software program that allows an Israeli SIM card to work with the phone. After that, it "works perfectly," he said. Once it is unlocked, he can program it to work on an Israeli network, use non-Apple applications and operate in Hebrew. Some of the customers are Israelis and some come from countries such as the United States, where iPhones function on cellular networks normally. Rachel Snider, a 25-year-old American who came to Israel in February on a MASA program, opted to unlock her iPhone instead of buying an Israeli cell phone. "I just wanted the comfort" of using a familiar phone, Snider said, and unlocking the iPhone and renting an Israeli SIM card was cheaper than renting an Israeli phone. She paid 200 shekels and went to a cell phone booth in Dizengoff Square in Tel Aviv. Several minutes later, she had an iPhone in her hands that was connected to an Israeli network. "The phone is great. I think it should be available in as many countries as possible," she said.